There’s little I can say that would adequately address the unrest in our nation over these past few days. When life and news become overwhelming, many parents turn inward towards their children, trying to make sense of life again. Being with them and being present fully for them seems one way we can do something tangible that feels like we are making a difference. I am also this type of person. And so this is long.
A couple of days ago, the summer camp my son attends handed out a survey at pick-up, asking if we would quickly fill it out. Pick-up is stressful. You’re tired, the kid is tired, the counselors are tired, and you just want to get your kid and go home. I scribbled a few one-word answers and felt unsatisfied. This is a different camp than the one he went to last year, and honestly, I don’t really know how it’s going, other than what I see at pick-up and drop-off. As with school, D is tired at the end of the day and doesn’t want to be grilled about the details of his day. He’ll give brief answers to questions about how this trip went or that activity was, but then gets exasperated, which is fine.
I decided to follow up with a detailed email to the person over the camp, with some specific suggestions and observations, including that I thought they should survey the kids, even if that feedback has to be taken with a grain of salt. They could weed out problematic counselors this way, for example, if several kids noted that Mr. Jerry is mean (or worse), or whatever.
I said honestly, the counselors seem bored, unfriendly, and (understandably) tired at the end of the day. Pick-up is complete chaos, with the kids running and screaming in circles, burning whatever overtired energy they have left to give at the end of the day, and endangering themselves and others. Surely there could be activities each group could be doing in their classrooms – crafts or chalkboard games or handouts to keep their minds fresh on basic reading or math skills. I told them I still remember well select camp counselors from my own camp days, because they had the perfect blend of being friendly and fun while also still maintaining a firm hand of control, which is really what most kids need. Most do better with at least some kind of structure, and being a counselor is more than ticking off names on a chart to make sure everyone is accounted for every half hour, or walking them to this place or that so they can swim or play. They are in charge of the young minds and bodies that will shape our country’s future soon, and entrusted with our most treasured souls that we leave each day, hoping they will be safe and cared for. Their job and duty is to the children, and to the parents, to enthusiastically let parents know their kids are not only ok, but are thriving, that this is a great place for them to be because they are happy, active, safe and engaged. And for the children, to be a place of safety, comfort, intelligence, leadership, guidance, as well as fun. Perhaps the pay should be higher, I suggested, or the interview process more stringent, in order to yield counselors who really want to be there and care about what they do. I remember Miss Connie and Miss Sarah and Miss Gail. They cared. They carried you if you were hurt. They made sure you didn’t drown. They tickled and chased all the kids around. They taught archery and made sure you didn’t fall off the ponies. They taught you about different kinds of trees and how to catch crawfish in the crick. They settled differences and made everyone stay together and sang songs at the top of their voices, and I want that for my child as well, just as one day the counselors will want that for their own children.
They were really grateful for the feedback and said they’d pass it on to the camp directors right away, and that they wished more parents would take the time to give such detailed comments.
Yesterday, at pick-up, there was no screaming at all. All the kids were sitting at tables doing little stamp crafts. A blonde girl came over from another table and asked my son if she could borrow his glue and he said yes, and his eyes followed her back to her table. “Oh?” I said inquisitively? “STOP!” he said, and put his head into my chest, embarrassed because he knew that I knew that he liked her. He had some art to bring home and we left in an orderly fashion. When we got home, I told him he had to read two pages from a book he’s slowly making his way through, and, instead of running around screaming some more like he usually did, he laid down on the carpet and read the book as instructed. Then we had a nice dinner together and I let him veg in front of the TV because that’s all he wanted to do, and I sat with him just so we could be near each other.
I know all kids aren’t this way and it isn’t as easy as I’m making it sound, but sometimes, it is. They need some love and guidance and direction so we can bring them up as decent humans. People need feedback who play a part in this process, and we need to speak up and give it. We sure need to raise up some more decent humans in this world, and everyone has to work at it.